Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pagan Interfaith Teaching

Sanctuary of Congregation Kol Shofar
Earlier this week Marin Interfaith Council sponsored an event called "Contemplative Service of Light," held in the beautiful sanctuary at Congregation Kol Shofar. The ceremony was intended to highlight the youth from various religious communities around the county.  However, since I'm just me, a Witch at Large, and because we Pagans have not yet established much in the way of lasting institutions, I had no youth to include.

We opened with everyone chanting "We are a circle within a circle, with no beginning and never ending."  If this sounds familiar to the Pagan reader, it's because it's a Pagan chant written by Rick Hamouris.*  How fine to have a chant of Pagan origin that people of many religions can relate to and sing with genuine enthusiasm.

Next the youth of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon offered a Biblical reading, followed by a period of silent meditation.

Diwali Candles
Our friends from Brahma Kumaris spoke of how they celebrate Diwali, concluding with a lovely brief meditation on the light in our bodies, extending from the point on the brow throughout our bodies, down each leg to the toes, down each arm to the fingers, and above the head.

Hannukah Menorah
The youth of Congregations Rodef Shalom (Reformed) and Kol Shofar (Conservative) told the story of the eight days of Hannukah as they lit each candle in the menorah"The ninth holder, called the shamash ("helper" or "servant"), is for a candle used to light all other candles and/or to be used as an extra light."

This lighting was followed by a second period of silent meditation, with the ringing of a bowl indicating its end. 

The youth of our local Baha'i community spoke and sang on their Seven Candles of Unity -- (1) unity in the political realm; (2) unity of thought in world undertakings; (3) unity in freedom; (4) unity of religion; (5) unity of nations; (6) unity of races** [sic]; and finally (7) unity of language --  as one teen after another lit each candle.  

After this, the youth from Unity of Marin also lit unity candles.  I was confused as to which community, Baha'i or Unity of Marin, lit which candles, since there was only one candelabra of unity candles.

Once more we sat in silent meditation until the ringing of the bowl.

Nancy Johnson from First Missionary Baptist Church in Marin City told us the history and meaning of the African-American and Pan-African celebration of Kwanzaa.  Kwanzaa is a Swahili word derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza," meaning "first fruits."  Created by Dr. Malauna Karengo in 1966, 
Kwanzaa is organized around five fundamental activities: (1) ingathering of the people which reaffirms the bonds between them; (2) special reverence for the Creator and creation which recognizes and reaffirms the bond of mutuality between the divine, social and the natural; (3) commemoration of the past which is directed toward honoring and emulating the ancestors and understanding the meaning and obligations of our history; (4) recommitment to our highest cultural values, especially our moral and spiritual ones; and (5) celebration of the Good of life, i.e., life itself, love, sisterhood/brotherhood, family, community, the earth and universe, the human person and human possibilities, our struggle, history and culture. 
Kwanzaa Candelabra
Kwanzaa is organized around seven principles, or Nguzo Saba. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.

  • Unity - UmojaTo strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Self-determination - KujichaguliaTo define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Collective Work and Responsibility - UjimaTo build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Cooperative Economics - UjamaaTo build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Purpose - NiaTo make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Creativity - KuumbaTo do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Faith - Imani: To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle
The seven candles of Kwanzaa are: three red, symbolic of the blood shed in the struggles of African ancestors; three green, representing the fertile land of Africa and the concept of hope; and one is black, representing the color of the African race.**

It's interesting to note the similarities of the various candle-lighting ceremonies: Judaism has eight; Baha'i and Unity seven; and Kwanzaa seven.  We Pagans have fires in our hearths, bonfires on hills and beaches, Yule logs, and the reborn Sun.

Last but not least, I presented a 'teaching' about light and the Sun from a Pagan perspective.   Here is text of what I read is and here is a video by Clyde Roberts .

Since the ceremony was running late, we dispensed with the final silent meditation and went directly to our closing song, Charley Murphy's "Light Is Returning."  Counting the e.e. cummings chant I sang in my talk, this makes the third piece of Pagan music in this interfaith service.  Here we are singing it, thanks again to Clyde.  The "ghosts" of light in the video are reflections from the mirror mobile hanging from the middle of the ceiling of the sanctuary.

* * * * *
*  Although this chant appears in many places around the Web, perhaps not surprisingly nearly none of them credits the author.  I happen to know Rick.  If you're a regular reader of my infrequent blogs, you know that I feel strongly about crediting the sources of chants, songs, and liturgical pieces that find their way into the common Pagan culture whenever possible.

**  Personally, I consider there to be only one race, the human race, with various expressions of uniqueness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like this link to Rick Hamouris' music.